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Pebble Report

All four minor league affiliates brought out the lumber yesterday, and each posted victories. I wish we could say the same about the big club.

Asheville won eleven to eight behind a strong offense, and despite the final score, pretty decent starting pitching. Ryan Mattheus went six innings and allowed only three hits (one a homerun) and two walks to go along with four strikeouts to pick up the victory. Jonathan Herrera had three hits for the Tourists and Dustin Hahn, Joe Koshansky, and Matt Miller had two apiece. Herrera has been rising in my book this season because he's been taking better control of the strike-zone, going from similar 10/25 and 26/80 BB/K rates the past two years to a 4/3 ratio -and a subsequent .100 rise in his OPS- so far this year. He hasn't shown any power and is repeating the SAL, so keep that in mind, but he's still only 20, and has some room for further development. Florentino Nunez hit his second homerun of the season, a three run shot, but since hitting his first a couple of weeks ago, he's gotten pull happy and seen his other stats plummet. Also seeing his season spiral downhill is reliever Darric Merrell who gave up five more runs on a walk and four hits (three homers!) in just two innings. Conversely, Adam Bright continues to shine (ha-ha, I bet he hasn't heard that one before) walking one and striking out one in the ninth en route to his second save.

Modesto started slow, but once Bakersfield Blaze starter Ryan Wing was pulled after the fifth, got it going for a six to one victory. I think Wing must have been down on a rehab assignment as he's already had a cup of coffee with the White Sox in the bigs last year before being claimed by Texas in the offseason. Ian Stewart had two doubles as he continues to heat up, Erik Dean had a three run homerun among his two hits, and Matt Macri (2 for 3, 2BB's), Joe Gaetti, Jud Thigpen, and Chris Ianetta all contributed to the offense, Walkill Guance (0 for 5) and Seth Smith (0 for 4) did not. Tomas Santiago went six innings and gave up five hits and a walk while K'ing four. Head Bum over at Rox Head and I have exchanged a couple of e-mails regarding this group of prospects, as I told him when these arrive (and Jeff Baker) is when we'll really start seeing the homeruns from our offense again. I'm going to post a part of his response regarding the intriguing jam we've got coming up the middle right now (I hope he doesn't mind):

Will they keep Barmes at short when Macri comes up? Which one has the better arm? Is Macri really considered a power prospect? And then a year or so later what happens when Chris Nelson is ready? Then there's Jason Nix to consider, however, he better start showing some signs he can hit for an average higher than the Mendoza line. I wonder what the Crystal ball shows for the Rox at those two positions 3 years from now?

I think right now that the Rockies are content to keep Barmes at short, and I don't blame them,

but which one moves to second when Macri arrives? My guess at the moment is that it will be Matt, but I'm not a hundred percent certain. I am pretty certain that barring injury these are the two starting middle infielders for the Rox three years from now. Macri has taken to his position switch very well at Modesto, and the fact that his batting hasn't been hurt much as he's switched to a more premium defensive position has vaulted him into my top five prospects for the Rockies (I'll post my updated top ten tomorrow). As far as Macri's arm and power goes, I'll pull the quote from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2005:

His power is his best tool, and he shows it to all fields. After having trouble with wood bats at the Cape, he figured out how to get his hands inside the ball quicker. Macri did stike out a lot, something he'll have to watch at higher levels. Macri is a first-class defensive player with soft hands and arm strength.

A look at his stats this year shows that his K rate is still as high, but he has been improving steadily as the season progresses and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a bit lower by the end. He started slow and his stats have picked up over the last few weeks. I'm very high on Macri right now obviously, but if we have a slugging middle infielder of his stature to go along with Barmes we can afford to let Chris Nelson take the full five years if necessary to get ready to join the big club and even have a pretty decent back-up if he fails to develop.

Speaking of failing to develop, Jayson Nix hit his second homerun of the season as well as a two run double last night at Tulsa, and continues to be an enigma. His recent power surge notwithstanding, Nix has been having a second straight off year at AA. Until Macri shows he can transition to that level of ball smoothly (see John Sickels' Minor League Ball site for discussions on the importance of this) then we should probably keep Nix, but right now I think his future with the Rockies might be best served in helping us get young talent at other positions - like pitching for instance - then in actually playing for us. He's still young at 22, and could still develop into something decent, but I doubt he'll have more power than Macri or a better bat overall than Barmes, leaving Nix as a backup for us at best.

Since nobody else at Tulsa had a notable performance except for old for the league starter Christian Parker (who tossed seven and two thirds innings, of three hit, no walk, nine K dominance) I'll move on to AAA where Jorge Piedra, Eddie Garabito, Danny Ardoin, and Tim Olson led the offensive charge, backing up Mike Esposito's shaky performance for a seventeen to five thrashing of Iowa. In a game of funky extremes and a therefore fun box score to look at, the Sky Sox needed only thirteen hits to score those seventeen runs, while Esposito somehow only allowed five despite allowing fifteen baserunners (ten hits, three walks, plus two more on fielding errors by Garabito) on in just five innings of work. Garabito made up for his fielding miscues by hitting a homerun and double among his three hits, and Piedra had a triple and two doubles for his three. Ardoin and Olson each also homered as the Sky Sox drew nine walks on the night (maybe they can teach the parent club something.)